(CBS) Did the Rams’ 2014 draft selection of Michael Sam come forced by the NFL? A report out of St. Louis suggests that was the case.
According to Howard Balzer, a longtime NFL reporter with 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the Rams were cut a deal by the league: draft Sam, who would become the NFL’s first openly gay player, and the team wouldn’t be forced to be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” training camp series.
Sam responded on Twitter, saying: “I’m not surprised at all.”
With Sam’s selection, the NFL avoided a major PR crisis had Sam not been drafted.
The Rams, who have since moved to Los Angeles, became an ideal fit for Sam, who was SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and would be playing just 90 miles from the University of Missouri, where he became a standout. Sam was projected to go in the fifth round, but dropped to the seventh round, at the 249th overall selection. Sam never appeared in an NFL game.
However, the Rams will be featured on “Hard Knocks” this season, a series that the league greatly values while many teams — including the Bears — are opposed to partaking.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered a strong denial to the Sam story.
“That in itself is absolutely absurd, it’s 100 percent incorrect,” Fisher said. “I was really taken aback by those comments. It’s insulting, from my standpoint, as it relates to Michael. We had three seventh-round picks. When we drafted Michael he was the best player on the board. Who in their right mind would think that you give up a draft choice to avoid doing something like that?”